Q: I have a vine growing from inside my boxwood. It has very tiny yellow flowers and little green seed pods hanging from the vine. I can’t get to the base of the plant because the boxwood is so big and up against the house. Dave Allen, email
A: I think you have creeping cucumber, Melothria pendula. Unlike a common cucumber, it is perennial and continues to come up from its roots each year. Pull it off the bush and reach down as far as you can along the vine to grab it from the soil. If you are persistent you’ll get control by next fall.
Q: I have a bermuda lawn that I keep mowed at three inches high every seven days. I want to cut it shorter but when I do all I see is brown stems. My wife wants me to just cut off a little each time I mow so it always looks green. We take very good care with fertilizer and weed control. The lawn is usually one of the best in our neighborhood. Rick Swartz, LaGrange
A: You need to mow more often. If you are fertilizing regularly, as it sounds like you are, the grass grows rapidly but only the top inch is green, the rest is brown. So your wife’s idea is good: Mow a little lower each time but do it every three days. Since we are still in a fall drought the best time to lower the height is in spring. Bermuda grass grows best at one and one-half to two inches high.
Q: I had a beautiful fescue lawn all winter and spring. In mid summer all the grass died. I don’t know what to do to prevent this from happening again. Ann Allen, Northlake
A: It is not unusual for fescue lawns to undergo a summer swoon. Much of it is the result of high temperatures around the roots and around the growing plant. When night temperatures are above 75, fescue plants have a hard time recovering from damage done the day before. So every day during this period of summer heat, fescue gets weaker and weaker, finally going dormant. Given a week of cooler temperatures and some rain, it’s remarkable how some “dead” fescue lawns spring back to life.
Even so, there are things you can do to minimize summer stress. First, mow the grass higher in summer; this helps shade the roots and soil. Water regularly (one inch per week applied at one time); evaporation cools the soil and leaves. Avoid fertilizing; feeding causes plants to need more water. Aerate thoroughly (ten holes per square foot, soil plugs at least two inches long); this helps grass grow deeper roots and helps water penetrate deeper. Remove weeds quickly; they compete with the grass for moisture and nutrients. Resign yourself to overseeding lightly every fall; it is inevitable that you will lose some fescue plants and they need to be replaced with new plants before winter.
I can’t guarantee your fescue lawn will look green and gorgeous in late summer, but these tips will help minimize its decline.
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